Fair Ice Policy: A Fair Deal

Frosty sport utility vehicles filled the arena parking lot. People in diverse coloured clothing hustled about in the spring snow, not wanting to miss a minute of ringette game action.

Excitement, hope and youthful hormones provided the back drop to a ringette cultural trademark – the Canadian Ringette Championships (CRC).

The CRC is a significant event in the competitive ringette athlete’s career. The focus is on elitism and excellence. It is replete with all-stars, individual achievement awards, scholarships and banquets.

Fun, fun, fun…

Or not…

Tell that to the 17 year old who was crying her eyes out while sitting in her car. Her mother tried to console her daughter. But, to no avail.

She had played all season with her team, on their way to winning the provincial championship, which allowed the coach to “pick up” players from other teams in the province – further strengthening the team.

The rule allowed the coach to carry a roster of 22 players. Ringette rules permit a maximum of 18 players in an official game. Four players would have to sit out each game.

This came as a surprise to this dedicated player who had helped the coach win the Provincial gold medal.

She was told minutes before the game that she would not be dressing.

Similar incidents took place in the U-12 (Petite) age group. For years, the provincial association had tried to make the Provincial Championships competitive and balanced. In spite of best intentions, coaches disregarded the advice – weak players watched while “strong” players played.

This is referred to as “shortening the bench.” It means unequal ice time. A strong player may get 3 to 4 times more ice time than a weaker player. In some games, players may not play at all.

The Head Coach of a U-12 team told players and parents before the Provincial Championships that several players would not play. While advanced notice was given, the damage was done. The players were talking about the incident months later.

There is a new game in town.

It is called the “ORA Fair Ice Policy,” effective September 2011.

It indicates what discretion coaches have with respect to player ice time for league games, tournaments and provincial championships.

Guidance for Coaches:

  • Read the policy and understand the rationale;
  • If you mess around with player ice time and ignore the policy, you could find yourself sitting before a coaching review committee – you don’t want that;
  • Remember, your players develop through varied game experiences – expose them to special game situations and help them learn;
  • You don’t have to win every game – take the long view;
  • Your job is to prepare players for progressively higher levels of plays (age and calibre);
  • Measure your success by exposing players to different skills, drills, tactics and game situations.
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